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Northport school board balks at veterans tax exemptions

School officials want more public input

Northport-East Northport school board members James Maloney and Lori McCue. File photo by Susan Risoli

February 13, 2014 | 09:31 AM
The Northport-East Northport school board discussed a school property tax break for veterans at Monday night's meeting, but decided not to vote on the matter until its next meeting March 3, giving taxpayers more time to comment.

There are three categories of exemptions, Superintendent Marylou McDermott said. Veterans would be eligible for a 15 percent reduction in assessed value if they served during a time of war. If they served in combat, they would be entitled to an additional 10 percent. If they have a service-related disability, they would be entitled to a maximum exemption of up to 50 percent.

The total exemption for all Northport-East Northport school district residents who are veterans would be $772,000, McDermott said. That money would be redistributed among the district's nonveteran taxpayers. The additional amount nonveterans would pay "would vary according to the assessed value of your house," said Kathleen Molander, assistant superintendent for business.

The average assessment in the district is $3,800, which would translate into an additional $36.44 in school property taxes for the year, Molander said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a new law in December granting eligible veterans the partial exemptions to school taxes if their districts opt in following a public hearing. Veterans already get the same percentage in tax cuts for the town and county portions of their taxes.

Though the Northport-East Northport school district's Monday night meeting was considered a public hearing on the veterans' tax break, school board member Lori McCue said it was "very concerning" that the public hadn't had enough time to comment.

"There aren't many people here tonight," she noted.

Board member Joe Sabia responded, to scattered applause, that he would "like to see this go through" because "I think our veterans deserve it." Board member Tammi Topel agreed with Sabia but said the proposed exemption "needs more input" from the public, particularly because the extra tax for nonveterans "might be an extreme hardship" for some.

School board Vice President Jennifer Thompson said the community "is going to be hit with some uncertainty with regard to LIPA" and said that could result in a tax burden of "potentially hundreds of dollars" in addition to the extra tax nonveterans will have to pay if the veteran exemptions are approved.

McCue requested "the number of veterans, or the number of households in the community" that would be eligible for the exemptions. Trustee James Maloney asked for "the average assessed value of those homes."

McDermott said the district can "acquire that information."

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